Bright Referral aims to modernize the referral process for orthodontists and patients while maintaining the relationships it is built on.

By Steven Martinez

The saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and for many orthodontists, it might feel that the referral process is firmly in the category of “ain’t broke.” Despite the expansive choices a practice has for marketing online or on social media, a classic referral still plays a big role in gaining clientele.

But what if there was a way to modernize referrals while still retaining the vital simplicity of having a general practitioner (GP) guide prospective patients to your door?

Orthodontic startup Bright Referral aims to do just that, using modern technology to improve the referral process for patients, GPs, and orthodontists while maintaining the process that doctors have used for centuries.

Bright Referral was created by Liz Sudit and her husband Geoff Sudit, DDS, MS, who run Mint Orthodontics in Minneapolis, Minn. Liz says the idea for Bright Referral came to them one day when her husband was having lunch with a dentist who asked how the 10 referrals she had sent along were doing.

Geoff responded to her, “Really? I think I saw two,” and asked what happened to the other eight. The dentist responded, “I don’t know, I don’t see them for six months.’”

Liz says they realized that they were wasting opportunities for new business because so much of the referral process relied on patients to follow up themselves. So, they started to think about how they could better track referrals and guide prospective patients to their destination.

“There’s tons of different ways to get patients in the door but a referral is the way that you’re most likely to succeed and nurturing those relationships is so important,” says Liz. “Referrals are hugely important to the sustainability of a practice and fostering the relationships in a referral network is really important to keep those referrals coming.”

The two combined Liz’s background in digital marketing and website design with Geoff’s expertise as an orthodontist with a private practice, building a solution they felt would benefit all parties in the referral process.

Bright Referral uses a card with a built-in near-field communication (NFC) chip and printed QR code. When a GP gives a patient the “Bright Card,” they can either tap their phone to the card or scan the QR code to take them to the Bright Referral page for the orthodontic practice the GP is referring to. The patient can enter their contact information there. The QR code is there as backup to the NFC, in case the patient’s phone has signal issues. Both methods take patients to the same place.

While hands free technology took off with the pandemic, Liz says the process of tapping a card with your phone still has a fun and futuristic feel.

The page contains information about the doctor they are being referred to, including the practice name, logo, address, doctor bio, website, relevant social media, and even Google Reviews. Once the patient taps or scans the Bright Card, that transaction is noted by the Bright Referral platform, allowing doctors to see when and where a referral took place.

The information a patient sees on the website is completely customizable by a doctor, meaning that if they have multiple locations, the patient will only see the one closest to them, or if they would prefer to leave Google Reviews off, they can opt out of including them. If information needs to be changed, like a practice’s website or phone number, the doctor can change it through the Bright Referral platform.

Patients are not required to download anything because everything is done through a browser, and if information is changed or edited, everything is automatically updated meaning that card will always show patients the latest information.

Because all referrals and patient information are tracked, doctors are also able to gain insight into what used to be a huge blind spot. Now they can see not only when referrals are happening, but which practices are referring most often and which referrals are most often converting to new patients for the orthodontic practice.

“Even if a patient doesn’t share contact information, you still see that a referral happened, and it’s quantified by a number. You see the referral source and you see exactly when it happened,” says Liz.

A doctor can use the information about the time and place a referral was made to thank a GP for the referrals they are sending and, if any referrals haven’t followed through, potentially asking the GP to follow up. Even without contact information, knowing when a referral happened could be enough information for a GP to know which patient it was and to reach out to that patient again.

“None of that would be possible with a traditional paper referral,” says Liz.

Earlier this year, the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) Innovation and Transformation Fund announced an investment in Bright Referral as a startup. The company plans to use the funding to ramp up marketing and get the word out to more practices—a referral for Bright Referral.

“We didn’t set out to build a product to sell. That was not the plan. We just said: Let’s make this better, at least for Mint Orthodontics, the practice that we can control,” says Liz. “That’s where we started and then it became really successful, and we thought maybe other people would find value in this.”OP